After the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Panasonic and Olympus pioneered the new trend of interchangeable lenses, Sony and Samsung have quickly joined the party with their version of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.

The first two models from Sony, the NEX-5 and the NEX-3 are what Sony refers to as the world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens cameras. The Sony NEX-5 reviewed here is the more expensive version of the two NEX cameras and it has a slightly different body design and records full HD video, with the rest of the features being same as the NEX-3.

Features and specs

The Sony NEX-5 offers a 14.2 megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor which Sony claims is 60 percent larger than that of the Micro Four Thirds sensor found on the Panasonic G-series and Olympus PEN-series of cameras. Sony also claims that the sensor has the equivalent size and performance of what it uses for its Alpha series of DSLR cameras. Eliminating the mirror box design of the DSLR, the Sony NEX-5 offers an interchangeable lens design in a much more compact body.

The camera also opts for a lens-based optical image stabilisation called 'Optical Steady Shot' over the in-body image stabilisation, in order to make the body more compact. In fact, the NEX-5 currently is the smallest mirrorless and interchangeable lens camera in the market. The NEX-5 is targeting users who are planning to upgrade from their compact cameras.

Sony NEX-5
Sony has introduced the new E-mount system on the NEX-5 body to use with its own E-mount lens, and an adapter can be purchased separately if you want to try it with Sony’s Alpha lenses. Currently, there are three E-mount lenses - a 16mm f/2.8 lens, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and an 18-200mm f/3.5-.6.3 tele-zoom lens. The kit lens (18-55mm) has aperture sizes varying from F3.5 to F22 at wide angle while it starts from F5.6 to F32 at tele.

Sony NEX-5

The NEX-5 comes with a detachable flash and a 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. It also supports infrared remotes (needs to be purchased seperately).

The NEX-5 does not have an optical viewfinder, instead all compositions need to be done via the rear 3-inch (921 dots) LCD screen that comes with TruBlack technology. The screen can be tilted upwards and downwards to make shooting in various angles easier. There is no built-in or pop-up flash, instead Sony has included a separate flash which can be mounted or bolted on the accessory port located on top of the body unit. The NEX-5 also has infrared remote control support, but the controller needs to be purchased separately.

The NEX-5 has many standard features like Sweep Panorama, Handheld Twilight etc. but also includes some new and interesting features like 3D Sweep Panorama mode. It features full manual controls and P/A/S/M shooting modes apart from 14 different scene modes.

The NEX-5 features ISO speeds ranging from ISO200 to a whopping 12,800 but the ISO at Auto mode ranges from ISO200 to 1600. The maximum shutter speed is 1/4000 sec while the minimum is 30 seconds plus there is a bulb mode which will keep the shutter open as long as you hold down the shutter button.

Sony NEX-5
There is a useful Auto HDR mode which is accessible in P/A/S/M mode and this feature works by capturing three images with different exposures saved as one image. The HDR feature gives more in exposure bracketing with the increment going all the way up to +6 while the camera exposure bracketing is limited at +/-2 stops.

The camera has three metering modes - multi, centre and spot while focusing areas can be selected from three options - multi (25 points), centre and flexible spot. Focusing mode options include autofocus, manual and DMF which lets users make fine adjustments to the focus manually after auto focusing. The camera offers built-in help for most of the features and by default the bottom soft key at the back of the camera is assigned to launch the descriptive shooting guide.

Sony NEX-5

The NEX-5 has sensor bigger than Micro Four Thirds camera and it uses the newly developed E-mount system for its lens

The NEX-5 records HD (1920 x 1080i) video and it uses the AVCHD codec which is impressive (the NEX-3 offers 720p HD video). The camera offers continuous autofocus while shooting video and the auto exposure feature is also present. Video mode gives options for changing white balance, exposure and colour controls which is quite limited considering there are many more options the camera can offer in still mode.

To connect it to an HDTV, the camera offers an HDMI-out port. The camera supports SD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick PRO Duo and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo card.

Overall, the NEX-5 offers enough features and potential to let you play with as many advance features as a standard DSLR would. The NEX-5’s bundle contains the camera, 18mm-55mm kit lens, a flash unit, a 4GB SD card, Li-Ion 334mAh battery, battery charger, USB cable, CD, manual, Lens hood and the strap.